SURVIVOR STORIES: A week when “It gets better” really means IGB
This was it folks. After four years of medical school, five years of residency, one year of fellowship, and eight months of his first big boy job, my husband finally had the week were he just could not do it anymore.
Aside from slow OR turnovers that happen more often than not, my husband has not had many complaints about his first job out of training. He has had some really amazing patients, most cases go the way they are supposed to go, and he has a great OR staff. He is often home in time for family dinner, and a couple nights a week he is home early enough to play with our kids while I cook.
However, in the last week, my husband has had bad news after bad news with his patients. He had the weekend call from Hell where he spent an entire Saturday operating on emergency cases for what seemed like hundreds of elderly people who all managed to fall the day before. That day, he did not get home until midnight. This was a first in his career. Sure there was an occasional ten o’clock night in residency during a particular rotation that was notorious for long hours, but never before has my husband come home at midnight. He reheated his hours old dinner and crawled into bed, totally defeated by the day’s events.
He had clinic day after clinic day where none of his patients were good candidates for surgery. Then, he had patients with complications from their surgeries. He had an add-on case that turned what he thought was going to be an early day home with his family into a late night. I had a school meeting that night that I was suddenly unable to attend because it was too late to get a babysitter once my husband knew he wasn’t going to be home in time to take on the dinner and bed time routine. (Perhaps I’ll finally be able to attend a kindergarten orientation by the time our third child starts school.) He had another emergency add-on case Friday evening. (So much for family movie night!) It was truly a bad work week. Nothing went as planned. When he got home, my husband was ready to hang up his stethoscope (metaphorically speaking, as he hasn’t touched his since medical school) and retire from physician life.
When he awoke Saturday morning, he was refreshed. He had been on call Friday night, but had not even received one call, because for the first time in weeks, everything at the hospital went perfectly. What bliss! We took our kids to see the circus for the first time (so long Ringling Brothers!), and miracle of miracles- they all behaved perfectly for the entire show and loved it! This was the sort of It Gets Better moment we’ve been dreaming of- the outing where we have the money to pay for the pricey show tickets and the cash to buy a $15 bag of cotton candy (Holy price mark-up Batman!) And even though we were both still cringing over the crazy expensive cotton candy, we decided to take the kids out to have lunch at a local Mexican restaurant because we all had the best time at the circus, everyone was still behaving, and we can afford to indulge for the first time in our entire adult lives (thanks to the salary that comes with my husband’s job that he was so ready to quit a day ago). Later that night, my husband paid off the last of a credit card that had been carrying the burden of fellowship interview expenses for three years. It seemed like a miraculous thing to be able to go to the circus with our kids, splurge on $15 cotton candy, have lunch in a restaurant, and pay off a credit card all in one day.
Sunday was Easter. Our boys were dressed in the preppiest of spring outfits- matching madras golf hats, suspenders, bow ties, pink and white checkered shirts, khaki pants, and boat shoes. Our daughter looked like every classy Southern grandmother in toddler form- straw hat, monogrammed houndstooth print dress, pearl necklace and bracelet, and fancy shoes. It was a warm sunny day, perfect for spending the whole day outside. We went for a long walk and enjoyed looking at the spring flowers that had seemingly bloomed overnight, our sons collected sticks, our daughter talked about how she was going to ride a horse, and our dog sniffed all the things. When we came back home, the kids put on their bathing suits and played outside in the warm sun with the hose, while my husband and I sat on the front porch and enjoyed a glass of wine. As I relaxed in an Adirondack chair and watched my husband learn to play chess with our kids, I thought about how this week summed up everything it means to be an it gets better family.